The Unexpected Heir: A Tale of Alus

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The Unexpected Heir

By

Donald L. Wigboldy Jr.

 

Copy Write September 2016

 

For World Maps and More Go To:

https://www.facebook.com/BattleMageATaleOfAlus

 

Other books by Donald L. Wigboldy Jr.

 

From the Tales of Alus series:

The High King: A Tale of Alus

The Emperor’s Shadow War

Battle Mage: A Tale of Alus

Battle Mage: Winter’s Edge

Battle Mage: The Lost King

Battle Mage: Dragon Mage

Battle Mage: Dark Mage

Battle Mage: A Hero’s Welcome

Battle Mage: Forging New Steel

White Hall

Battle Mage: Winds of Change

Battle Mage Visions

 

Modern Tales:

Voran the Night Guardian

Standing Before Monsters

The Mermaid’s Chest

 

Beyond the Nebula Series:

Technomancer

War Wolves (coming late 2016)

 

 

Chapter 1- A Prologue

 

Gulls flew through the air above a courtyard that gleamed white in the early morning sun. Fluffy white clouds seemed to avoid the pristine courtyard with their shadows, but it was hardly silent perfection. No shadows darkened the stone, but the sounds of wind and water moving vigorously under the magical intent of wizards seemed to absorb the voices of the nearest birds. Forty feet below the white stone tiles making up a steady floor for the open air courtyard, waves lapped against the base of a stone cliff. Vibrations from the constant drumming of the ocean were masked by the force of magic spells being used by a pair of duelists surrounded by several other men and women.

Four wizards worked to maintain a united spell of protection. They stood creating an open rectangle of energy capable of absorbing the damage of even the strongest of the duelers' spells as the two fought hard to defeat their opponent.

A dark haired man, tall, strong and fierce looking as his hands moved in intricate patterns, continued to mumble his words of power as he worked to shake the ground or whip up the air to counter the girlish figure across from him. Wearing a dark red shirt and dark brown pants, the wizard was beginning to sweat in the cool air.

It was winter, but in Yalan that merely meant the air wasn't as hot as it could get. The kingdom of Malaiy formed the northwest corner of Taltan, but the continent rode the equator making it warm even after a few months of so called winter. Ocean breezes cooled the land in summer, but the water also served to even out the other seasons as well making all four very similar for the occupants of the small country.

Across from the dark, serious wizard; a petite young woman with blonde hair so light that it looked silver in sunlight wore a light blue skirt that fluttered in the winds cast by her opponent. The skirt came to just above the knee, an almost scandalous length among certain crowds, but the girl didn't care. Her top was even worse. A short, solid white shirt exposed her navel leaving several inches of exposed skin between the top of the skirt. Sheer white material made sleeves and covered her upper chest to the neck above the sleeveless inner shirt in a slight attempt at added modesty.

Her hair was pulled back in a tail leaving only a couple locks to frame her cheeks and toss in the air with each breeze. Almond shaped, green eyes concentrated on watching each move of the man and expressed little care over whether the others watching her appreciated her unusual choice of dress.

Several buckets of water formed a half circle behind the young woman. They remained inside the perimeter made of swirling wind whipping around the wizard. Wind was her protection making her look unprotected from afar, but as water from a bucket lifted free to be swung around in a circle, the wizard used the power of her cyclone to send the water towards the opponent across from her.

Changing shape under her attention, the water became a serpent. It lashed at his defenses of earth and crawled over the embankments searching for the wizard. Only a quickly cast spell using wind to slice the water tendril saved the man from being pushed out of the circle he stood within. Drawn on the ground, this ring was a clone of the one that the girl stood inside and different from the way the wizards of Malaiy typically dueled each other.

This was a duel following the rules sent by far off Southwall. The northern kingdom had sent an invitation to the nations of Taltan and most of the other continents of Alus calling for any wizards of talent to come fight in a tournament unlike anything ever put together before. The world of Alus was large and travel by horse or boat took time. Only ambassadors sent abroad knew much of the world beyond the borders of each country, but that didn't mean that the invitation would be ignored.

Moving more like a dancer in her circle, the silver haired woman pulled all her strength from her bare feet to the top of her head; or so Annalicia felt as she worked to pull at the elements that the wizard felt most comfortable using. Like Malaiy, the girl seemed most affected by wind and water. Unlike most of the wizards of her country, the movements she used had become an adaption that felt most natural to her feel for magic.

Her opponent was much more solid. His feet rarely moved. His body was steady as a rock, but then again his strength lay in using earth magic as much as the wind. Annalicia was trained to more than just magic, however, and the fluid movements of a skilled dancer and performer seemed the opposite of the man.

Stone tiles rippled as the dark haired wizard focused his power into the ground making a tremor headed straight for the petite blonde. Continuing her dance, she stomped the ground countering with a wave of her own. Though the earth wasn't her most comfortable element, Annalicia could use a few of those spells to defend herself. Any good wizard knew at least some of each element, even if they were complete rubbish at the spells. A great wizard did what they could to master their weaknesses making them strengths when possible.

A stone golem constructed like a hefty wolf or maybe a bear lunged through the dust created by the conflicting earth spells. It had been a feint for the second spell. Both combatants knew each other well enough to know that simple magic like the ripple wouldn't accomplish much, but the dust from the collision had set up the second attack using it as a deception.

Water whipped in from either side like serpents striking their victim. Punishing the stone construct, they pierced the bear drilling through and expanding quickly. A loud set of cracks filled the air as the golem exploded from the expanding holes created by each whip.

They returned to a draw, though Anna's water continued to respond to the wizard's movements. A new set of commands whipped up a powerful, chilling wind driving through the water. The tendrils froze quickly and launched towards the man driving in or around his defenses.

A quickly erected stone wall shielded the wizard from harm, even though the other wizards would have made that true either way. It wasn't their test of skill, however, and he needed to protect himself to continue on with the duel.

While he ducked, the wind was called into a swirling tornado of force focused horizontally towards the girl. Unfazed by the maneuver, Annalicia moved her defensive wall of air to intercept the vortex making it turn faster as it went. The girl set her feet against the rush and moved like a reed in the wind. Only the plant's roots kept it from flying free and it bent with the wind returning to vertical as it passed. Annalicia reacted the same to the wind's passing and watched as the two cyclones canceled each other out even as she worked to use the stalled out ice attack to her advantage once more.

Ice turned to water by her manipulation and attacked the man once more. Half a dozen snakes attacked only to be rebuffed by a wall of wind. She had only missed tagging him by seconds. Magic, especially intricate magic, had lag between the start of the cast and the actual result of their work. Only spells which continued their use could react faster as long as the wizard maintained the magic fueling it.

"Halt!" a voice boomed across the courtyard drawing the attention of both wizards. It was an older man dressed in gray robes looking every bit like what most expected a wizard to be. His manner implied that he expected unerring results from the single command and the two duelists did indeed stop their next spells releasing the power building in them for the next round of attacks.

Shaking his head, the older man voiced his disapproval as well. "Ivanor, you are continually a step behind Lady Anna. If you continue to rely on just earth and air elements, you are going to need to generate your spells faster to have a chance of winning this wizards' tournament."

The elder wizard's eyes moved on from the younger man in his circle to the girl. Ivanor rolled his shoulders cracking them and his upper spine releasing the tension built up over nearly two minutes of dueling unnoticed.

"Lady Annalicia, you just aren't trying hard enough. I can see that your heart isn't completely into this session," her mentor stated judging her performance with a slight frown. "This is the last time you will have to truly hone your skills before setting sail on your ship. If you don't give it your all, you are just shorting yourself."

A charming smile crossed the young woman's face as she straightened her skirt before walking towards the gray wizard. "Qerlan, you know that you don't have to call me 'lady' while I am training. When I am training my magic, I am just like any other wizard. Besides my title means little, the odds of my ever being more than a distant cousin to the king are slim with all my uncles, aunts and cousins.

"As to giving it my all, I've dueled Ivanor more times than I can remember. We know each other well enough that it's a bigger challenge to avoid becoming bored than to actually beating him."

The older man frowned. His look was echoed by Ivanor who could hear them both speaking. A strong breeze came from the sea, but it didn't mask the two as he walked towards the master as well.

"That is disrespectful to your opponent, young lady," Master Qerlan warned glancing towards the larger wizard approaching them.

"I didn't mean it like that," the girl sighed as she brushed the stray locks of hair back over her ears. Diamond earrings sparkled in their silver settings denoting the wealth of Annalicia's family without her even trying. "I just meant that we know each other's moves too well. Unless either of us decides to suddenly change or grow more creative, we will continue to just go through the motions. There isn't enough to push us to grow just facing the same opponents over and over again," she complained.

Qerlan continued to frown and replied, "Having the same opponent should automatically make you grow because you do know each other so well. If you were in a life and death fight with Ivanor with that attitude, he would most likely kill you.

"You have to learn to try, my lady."

Again Annalicia sighed before glancing to Ivanor as if to confirm something for herself. Instead of debating further, the blonde shrugged using her charming smile on the older man once more. "Well, be that as it may, you are correct that we don't have any more time for mindless drills or repetitive duels, master. I should be heading home to finish my packing. The servants will be ready to carry my luggage to the Sea Dragon before I know it.

"There is still so much for me to do. I guess that I will say goodbye now to you master. It will be quite a long time before we see each other again."

It was the old master's turn to sigh as he shook his head and replied, "A long time for you to avoid following your old master, you mean. Reynolvan and the others are as trained as we masters could get them. We can just hope that they will be ready to present a good face in this world tournament. Malaiy can't afford to look the fool in front of our peers."

Giving him a curious look, Anna asked, "While I don't plan on just rolling over for anyone, why are you so concerned? Surely you don't think that we are inferior to the wizards Southwall is bringing, do you?"

Waving her off, Qerlan replied, "No, no, of course not, we have trained you well and our magic is as strong as any who have visited Enchwold or Aerwold. We have made sure to visit those centers for magic regularly to train our students here. Few can hope to learn as much as someone like your grandfather, but he is one of a few who has lived multiple lifetimes, of course."

Wincing at the mention of her grandfather, Annalicia knew that his name would follow her throughout her life. Darius Eremia was referred to as an immortal. One of a handful of confirmed immortals, the connotation was slightly misleading. He had visited her a few times, well, more accurately he had visited her father. During one of those visits, her grandfather had lapsed into reminiscing about some of his adventures.

A wizard as well, Darius' business had evolved as he continued to live. He was about seven hundred years old and not even the oldest of the known immortals. Still, he had run into others and while many had aided their fellow men, others hadn't decided to be so magnanimous. A few had apparently been truly evil in nature and Darius, along with a few others, had chosen to police their kind.

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